Ska Keller: green policy can ‘absolutely’ turn around Europe’s economy | Video
European CEO interviews European Commission presidency candidate Ska Keller about how green policy has the potential to create more jobs and bolster Europe's economy
She says she’s “not another old, white man”. Ska Keller is a German MEP for the Greens party and a candidate for the European Commission presidency. She’s got youth and passion on her side, but can she deliver a new vision for the continent as euroscepticism gets louder and louder? European CEO talks to her about austerity measures, green policy and what sets her apart from the competition.
European CEO: I’ve been watching the debates over the past few weeks. I have to admit it was really hard for me to differentiate between your party’s platform and the others’ vision for the EU. How would you say you would set yourself apart?
Ska Keller: Well first of all, what’s very obvious that makes me different from them is, I’m part of a different generation from them. And well, I’m not another elderly man who’s running for office – of which we have so many in the European Parliament! Seventy percent of representatives are men.
But of course what matters most is the differences on the political level, and there we have quite a few. We Greens strongly object to the austerity measures that we see implemented currently in Europe, that make people unemployed and bring a lot of people to poverty.
European CEO: Let’s get into the first point you raised, a more socialised system cross-continental. How do you plan on invoking change when we’ve been looking at austerity measures for the past few years post recession?
We need to invest into the European future: putting the economy on more sustainable feet, and investing into renewable energy, energy efficiency
Ska Keller: Austerity does not work; it does not deliver positive results. Only negative ones. So we need to get over that, and instead we need to invest.
We need to invest into the European future: putting the economy on more sustainable feet, and investing into renewable energy, energy efficiency. And those are also the areas where we already have a lot of jobs being created that are also resilient to crisis.
There is a village that has made itself energy autonomous, that is self-sufficient when it comes to energy. And this has created so many jobs that now nobody in this town is unemployed.
You see also examples from Spain, from Italy, that it works. A green economy really works.
European CEO: Those are isolated that cases that you’re talking about; the successes, I’m sure there have been some, but are those enough to really push an economy forward? I mean we are talking about economies with billions, trillions of dollars of debt. How do you get out of that? You can’t possibly think that a green policy focused around sustainable development is going to push an economy forward out of such a slump?
Ska Keller: Oh yes it can absolutely do so! Sure, what we have at the moment are isolated cases, because they are communities that go ahead. And we don’t see the push at the European Union level. But that’s exactly what we need to do. Even the European Commission is saying that if we were just a little bit more ambitious with our climate targets we could easily create six million jobs by 2020. That’s the Commission saying that, so it’s a very conservative estimate.
But of course we need to do something for that. It’s not going to happen automatically; we need to invest into, for example, research and development, renewable energy, energy efficiency. Unfortunately conservatives and social democrats have voted against that, even though there is a broad understanding that exactly those investments will bring the right incentives for the private sector also to develop in that area and to create jobs.
European CEO: Okay, let’s look beyond green issues and look at some of the systemic economic problems that have plagued these problems. So a Pew Global Survey outlined a rebound in the public’s attitude towards the European project. Now an average of 77 percent of respondents across seven countries said a lack of employment opportunities was a very big problem, and six in 10 or more see public debt, rising prices, and the gap between the rich and the poor as very big problems. So does any EC President really have the power to address those issues?
Ska Keller: I think the European Commission can do a lot to address those issues. I mean for example employment, lack of employment opportunities: there we need to get the incentives right, so we’re actually getting more employment on the ground. And the Greens suggested we do that by investing in renewable energy and energy efficiency, because we have proven all over Europe that jobs can be created like this. And those are also the jobs that are beneficial for society, and of good quality for the individuals themselves.
European CEO: You can’t fix the banking crisis with better environmental policies. There has to be an examination of the banking sector. I mean, one consideration that’s been put out is that banks may have to hold more capital. Do you think that’s a solution, or no?
We need a strong financial market regulation. We need a strong banking union with good,
strong oversight by the
Ska Keller: It’s not the only solution, but yes: banks need to hold more capital. We should not rely on taxpayers saving and bailing out banks. It needs to be the owners of the banks who need to bail out the banks, or need to pay in case of a bankruptcy. We need a strong financial market regulation. We need a strong banking union with good, strong oversight by the European Parliament.
European CEO: You want to be the President of the European Commission. Of course we know that the top ring of countries really are the ones that drive policy; Germany has a very huge sway in terms of what happens. Are you going to just be a figurehead, or are you really going to be able to drive policy?
Ska Keller: I think it’s important that the German government should not try to dominate the other member states, and should not try to, you know, always have a ready solution that the rest can accept. We need the cooperation of all 28 member states.
There’s also the citizens, the people living there, and there we also need greater solidarity between the people living in different member states. A greater connection, for example, of the civil society. Of labour unions. They need to understand that the new level of making politics is at the European level, and we need to have better, and bigger, and strong cooperation across countries.
European CEO: Your party is known to show some resistance in terms of harmonising policies to create free trade agreements with the US. What do you think Europe stands to lose if we do so?
Ska Keller: We are not at all against trade, quite the opposite. And we also are very much in favour of cooperating with the US. But it needs to be on equal terms, and it also needs to be on fair terms. And any trade agreement has to be beneficial for the people on both sides, and also without harming the environment.
And the currency proposal is not fulfilling those criteria. It would lead to lower standards on the EU side when it comes to consumer protection, environmental protection. But it would also lead to lower standards in the US when it comes to financial market regulation, where I think the US has been doing much much better than the European Union. And I think it’s shameful that the Commission has said to the US administration that they have to lower their standards there.
So there’s many disadvantages to the people on both sides, and that’s why we don’t want to have this currency transatlantic trade investment partnership.
European CEO: You know, the US has been accused of really being a bully when it comes to creating free trade agreements. Do you ever worry that getting into any sort of agreement with the Americans is going to put the entire continent in sort of a, stranglehold, politically and economically speaking?
Ska Keller: Well the European Union has been doing similar policies when we look at the trade agreements that we do with developing countries, for example, where the Commission is using its power as the European Union to have more benefits than the developing countries. We’re actually doing trade policies that are going against our declared developmental goals. And I think that’s a scandal! We shouldn’t do that, we want to change that. As Greens.
And I think trade always needs to be fair, it always needs to be beneficial for everybody. That goes for the US, but it also goes for the European Union. The European Union can’t say, “Oh, we’re the good guys in trade!” Not at all.
European CEO: Beyond the US, China of course is a major player internationally. Should we get into agreements with China?
Ska Keller: Currently the commission wants to do an investment agreement with China, and I think that creates more doubts. For example, we’re very sceptical of the investor-to-state dispute settlement mechanism, which is not just an issue with China, but it’s supposed to now be in the agreement with the US, and also the one with Canada. And this allows investors to sue governments.
And while I think, sure, investors need to have the possibility to safeguard their rights, I think they should not have more rights than citizens and local investors have. And this investor-state dispute mechanism puts the investor and the state on very different footings, and it gives the investors more rights, and especially more say, on policymaking than they should have.
European CEO: Thank you so much for speaking with us today.
Ska Keller: Thank you.